Anger Awareness Coffee Break

149 – The Vocabulary of Anger

The Vocabulary of Anger

I talk a lot on this podcast about anger because it’s something that I’ve been working to manage in my own life. And today, I want to talk about the language of anger, and about learning to redefine and talk about anger in a different way.

For those that struggle with anger, we often get stuck in a bad pattern of mismanaging how we deal with strong, negative emotions. Something comes up and kicks off your fight or flight instinct kicks up and you find reacting in a way that is way out of proportion to the situation. And the worst part is that we often feel so helpless like it’s a split second reaction to things that are happening around you. You often go from 0 to 60 in just a moments notice. Often, that response is left over programming from things that you had little control over as you were growing up. Trauma can miscalibrate our ability to read a situation properly. Something that might just be annoying or frustrating gets treated with the same level as something more threatening.

And it sucks.

Once you finally get back in control of yourself, you feel like shit and feel ashamed of your behavior. You feel like you’re a bad person. You feel like you’re broken. You feel like it’s just one more instances showing that you fail at being the kind of person that you want to be. You feel unworthy, unlovable, worthless. That your failing as a human being.

And it sucks.

And after you blow up, you just want to hide. You want to push everyone away because you don’t feel worthy of being loved by others. You feel damaged at the core. Maybe even irredeemable.

So what do you do?

“When you have been compelled by circumstances to be disturbed in a manner, quickly return to yourself and do not continue out of tune longer than the compulsion lasts.”

— Marcus Aurelius

You listen to that anger. You sit with it and listen. You can question it. “Am I doing this to cause hurt, or is it really what I feel about this situation?” Because if you really feel that strongly about something, then maybe that anger is telling you something important. It is something that you should listen to. Maybe it’s anger at injustice. Maybe it’s anger at how someone else it treating you, and you really do need to take some action. If something upsets you that much, it should not be ignored.

Part of the problem, when we ignore our anger and feel bad about feeling any anger, at least for me, I feel terrible after I feel angry about anything. Even when it’s something that is probably okay for me to feel angry about. Because there are things that we should feel angry about, but when we blow up at seemingly trivial things, we start to feel shame towards any anger. Appropriate anger and inappropriate anger get lumped in the same pile.

And it’s hard sometimes when you’re caught up in it to know the difference. But when you’re in an argument and you feel that urge to just lash out, and you can catch it, count to 5 or even 10 before you say it. And ask yourself, “Do I REALLY mean what I’m going to say?” And if you do, then say it. Maybe try to say it in a way that is not confrontational. Maybe try to say it softly.

But if the compulsions that you have are things that you are doing or saying only to cause harm or to push someone’s buttons, then it’s probably better that you stop and sit with them a while. Give yourself some time to cool down. Take a break.

Being a stoic about anger doesn’t mean that we don’t feel it. It means that we learn to manage it. That we don’t let it ruin our lives. That we learn how to communicate what we feel in more productive and helpful ways. That we find new tools to talk about these things.

“For if anger listens to reason and follows where reason leads, then it is already not anger, of which obstinacy is a proper quality; if, however, it fights back and does not become quiet when it has been ordered, but is carried forward by its desire and ferocity, then it is as useless a servant of the soul as a soldier who disregards the signal for falling back. And thus, if it suffers a measure to be applied to itself, then it must be called by a different name, and it ceases to be anger, which I understand to be unrestrained and untamable.”

— Seneca

And what I think Seneca is telling us here is that we should learn how to label things better than just anger. It’s kind of like the old saying, if you only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. If you only know how to be angry in one way, or to express distress, irritation, annoyance, sadness, depression as anger, then you can’t deal with these strong emotions in an appropriate and useful way.

So what are some of the tools that we have? I think the biggest thing is to expand our vocabulary on our emotions. Rather then everything boiling down to anger, can we learn to identify more nuanced emotions. Maybe what we’re really feeling is frustration, or humiliation, or rejection. If we can learn to better identify what we’re really feeling, then we can start finding different ways of viewing the feelings we’re having.

When we can identify our emotions better we can see that dealing with annoyances is different than how we deal with frustration or resentment. But if we only have one word for it, then we don’t deal with effectively.

On my website, I created a worksheet that I’m calling the emotional vocabulary worksheet and basically what it is, it’s an exercise you can go through when you’re dealing with the strong emotion. And maybe you are in a situation where you didn’t deal with things very well. And it kind of walks you through trying to identify some of these different emotions and look at how these emotions maybe were appropriate or inappropriate for the situation. And if our reaction was appropriate or inappropriate for the situation.

Dealing with strong emotions in life is something that all of us have to do. But in order for us to actually deal with these different emotions that we have, we need to be sure what we’re actually feeling. So expanding our emotional vocabulary will give us the words to be able to really identify what it is that we’re feeling and then respond appropriately. So if you’d like a copy of this worksheet, if it’s something that sounds interesting to you, you can go to my website and download it from there will be a link on the front page. My website is and I’ll have the link sitting there on the front page.

And that’s the stoic coffee break for this week. Remember, be good to yourself and be good others, and thanks for listening.

Awareness Coffee Break Opinion stoicism

145 – Hold True

“Attach yourself to what is spiritually superior, regardless of what other people think or do. Hold to your true aspirations no matter what is going on around you.”

— Epictetus

This weeks episode is about finding your values and holding true.

As children, we’re taught how to get along with others, how to be congenial, to fit in. Kids that are seen as different or weird are often ostracized or teased. As we grow up, I think that most of us have a time in our lives where we feel like we’re not like everyone else, and we try so hard to fit in, and we try to change ourselves into something that we really aren’t. When we do this we have a feeling of being inauthentic. Even if we are “liked” in the moment, it’s a hollow feeling because we know that we fit in by being fake.

As we get older, most of us generally find a way to fit in and get along. We may hold onto the religion that we grew up, even if we don’t really believe it, simply because it’s easier to get along. If we are not careful we can take on attitudes and ideas that are not really our own. We may just simply default to the values of the culture that we live in.

“You need to get used to winnowing your thoughts, so that if someone says, ‘What are you thinking about?’, you can respond at once.”

— Marcus Aurelius

How well do you know yourself? If someone were to ask you today what your values are, what would be in that list? Would you know right offhand or would you have to think about for a while? Would those beliefs be truly yours, or would you simply say what the people around are saying?

“I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything”

— Katy Perry

My partner and I were talking the other day about the fact that I will sometimes not really share my own opinions because I’m afraid of that she’ll get upset with me. This, of course, annoyed her, because she wants to know my opinion on things. She may disagree with it, but it’s still valid for me to have my own opinion. As we talked about it, the more I could see that I often censored myself around others because I don’t want to upset them. That people pleaser in me still pops up sometimes without me really noticing it.

As we talked about it, she came up with an idea that I should write down what my values are, then if someone didn’t agree with something I said or was offended, I could go down my list of values and as long as I didn’t violate my own values, then I could feel good about my actions, regardless of what someone else thinks. So that’s what I did. I did a search on personal values and compiled a list of those that I feel are important. I came up with five core values: self-respect, compassion, openness, growth, and leadership. Under each of these values, I have a set of traits that clarify that value, as well as a question I can ask myself when I go down this list.

For example, my first, and for now most important value is self-respect, to love and value myself. The traits or sub values under that are:

  • Authenticity – Am I be true to myself, and are the beliefs I hold ones I have chosen?
  • Honesty – Am I being truthful to myself, and taking responsibility for my actions?
  • Humor – Can I relax and laugh at myself and be okay with my mistakes?
  • Autonomy – Am I being my own person, and not behaving differently because I’m worried about what others think of me?

If I can answer each of these questions honestly, then I am holding to my value of self-respect.

What are the values that you hold for yourself? What are the things that you hold as your core beliefs? Now when we start off figuring out what we truly believe in, we often have a hard time articulating what we truly believe in. We may have a clear idea of what we don’t want, and that’s not a bad place to start. Knowing that we don’t want intolerance or racism as part of values is a good place to start.

I would encourage you to take some time this week and list off the things that are important for you. If you are having trouble coming up with some ideas, go to my website and you’ll see a link to a worksheet that has a list of about 45 personal values, examples, and place for you to fill out your values.

The first part of being able to hold to your values is to know what they are. Whenever you find yourself unsure if you are being true to the things that are important, you can run down this list, and see where it may or may not fit in. If you can check off everything on your list, then you can feel comfortable with your actions and “hold to your true aspirations no matter what is going on around you.”

Anger Awareness Circumstances Coffee Break Control stoicism

144 – Emotional Management

Emotional Management


When was the last time that you felt a really strong emotion? What was that emotion? Gratitude? Joy? Anger? Jealousy? Emotions are a powerful force in our lives. When channeled properly, they can be the fuel that helps push us through to accomplishing what we want. They can also drive us in ways that we aren’t expecting or don’t want.

I’ve had several listeners reach out to me asking me to talk about how to manage emotions and how to deal with triggering events, so today I want to talk about using stoic ideas to help with regulating emotions. At times, our emotions can seem very overwhelming for us, and push is in a direction that is not helpful and can be damaging. In my own life, I’ve had times where I’ve let my emotions override my common sense and make choices or say things that I later ended up regretting.

I’ve talked on this podcast about how I struggle with keeping my temper in check, and the last few weeks have been a bit of a struggle for me. I’ve been dealing with some insomnia, which tends to leave me with less energy to keep a lid on my anger. And while my lack of sleep is a factor in lowering my attentiveness to my emotional state, my emotions are my responsibility.

What really frightens and dismays us is not external events themselves, but the way in which we think about them. It is not things that disturb us, but our interpretation of their significance.


First, let’s look out the flow of emotional states. The first thing that happens is we sense something.  Some even occur and we see, hear, touch, smell or taste something, and that information is received by our brain. At this point, it’s just raw data. It may be the vibration of a voice or a song. It may be the image of a car. It may be the smell of something cooking on the stove. This is just an observation of the event

Next, we have a thought about what that data means. We begin to make some kind of interpretation or judgment of what we sensed. We may hear someone say something that we think is rude. We may think the smell from the kitchen is enticing. We may think that the car we see is coming at us at us too quickly.

Once we have added some meaning to the data that came into our heads, we have created some emotion around it. We may feel offended at the remark. We may be excited about eating whatever someone is cooking in the kitchen. We may be on alert that we’re going to be run over by the car.

This cycle of observing, making judgments, and creating emotions continues until we take some action. We might say something back to the person. We may head into the kitchen to see what’s cooking. Maybe we run out of the way of the car.

Once we take action, then we start the cycle over again. We observe what has happened, in response to our action, have a thought about that observation, then have some kind of emotion around it, then we take some kind of action.

Now that we have our pattern established, what happens in this causes us to lose control of our emotions? It really comes from the judgment stage. How we think about something, and what we think that it means, is what create the emotion.  If someone said something trying to offend us, we can decide if we want to let that offend us, and feel that emotion. If we make a judgment that we don’t care about what they said, or that they are misinformed, or that we possibly misheard, then we have a very different feeling about what that person said, and will respond quite differently depending on our interpretation. Because we decide what we want to think about what they said, we are in control about how we feel about it. If we are able to delay making a judgment as long as possible, and just observe events, then we can choose what kind of judgment to attach to something, or to not have an opinion it at all.

Now some things, we should have a quick judgment on. If a car is racing towards us, we should get out of the way. But even in this case, making a wise judgment is more helpful, because if you are able to manage your fear, you can make a better decision of where to run.

The biggest trigger for anger is expectations. When we think that something should happen a certain way or someone should or shouldn’t behave a certain way, we set ourselves up to be disappointed. Learning how to let go of any expectations or outcomes, especially around things that we have no control over, such as what other people think of us, is one of the key teachings of both stoicism and Buddhism. The more we can learn to let go of things we can’t control, observe them, and make judgments based only on things we observe, the easier it is to manage our emotions, and make better decisions.

Most of the triggers for my anger come from my interpretation, my judgments of what I think about what someone else says or thinks of me. This is why the stoics talk so much about not worrying about the opinions of others.

I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinion of himself than on the opinion of others.

— Marcus Aurelius

Other peoples opinions are none of my business. They have the right to feel whatever they want. Just like I do. The question I need to ask is, “What do I think it means if they are annoyed at me? What meaning am I attaching to it?” Their opinion of me is not something that I can control, and when I do try to control it, I get frustrated by my powerlessness to be able to control it.

One of the best ways that I’ve been able to get this more under control is by using a stoic exercise called Premeditatio Malorum, or to premeditate on evil, basically imagining what could go wrong, so that you are prepared to handle those negative emotions. This is a powerful exercise in learning how to deal with things that trigger you.

Let’s say for example that you have a family member or friend that seems to triggers your anger. Sit down and imagine a scenario where you normally would get upset and lose your cool. Imagine what the situation would be like, and feel that emotion. And then make a choice to just sit and feel that emotion. How would it feel to just sit with it? How would it feel to just observe that emotion, and notice how it feels in your body? If you can just sit with it, and let yourself feel that you can recognize that this emotion can’t really harm you in any way.

Even after working through this kind of exercise, you’re going to make a judgment about something, and you’ll feel that strong emotion. There is nothing wrong with this. If you do notice this, try to take that step back an observe the emotion. Notice it. Try to see what the thought was behind it. What was the meaning that you attached to it? Once you can start to understand your own thought process, you can start to change what thoughts you have about specific events.

Learning to manage your emotions is not something that is easy to do. It’s something that takes constant work and attentiveness. Understanding the thought processes that lead to these emotions and using exercises like Premeditatio Malorum can help you be prepared to deal with those triggers help you manage your emotions rather than letting them control you.

Awareness Challenges Coffee Break stoicism

137 – Worthy of Your Potential

Worthy of Your Potential


“Tentative efforts lead to tentative outcomes. Therefore, give yourself fully to your endeavors. Decide to construct your character through excellent actions and determine to pay the price of a worthy goal. The trials you encounter will introduce you to your strengths. Remain steadfast…and one day you will build something that endures: something worthy of your potential.”

― Epictetus

Show Notes:

  • One of most important habits to cultivate is a strong work ethic.
  • Time and dedicated effort make it more fulfilling.
  • There’s a saying: “How you do one thing is how you do everything.”
  • Often, trying to take shortcuts, we’re often wasting more time going back to fix what wasn’t done well, than if we’d just done it right in the first place.
  • Sometimes, best shortcut is to do good work.
  • And if you’re going to put effort into something, why half ass your way through it? That’s wasted time.
  • If we’re always looking for the easy way, then we may miss out on a more difficult path that has a greater reward.
  • Hard work makes us to get stronger.
  • We’ll never climb a great mountain if we’re only climbing hills.
  • If you’re running a marathon, and you take shortcut and make it to the finish line, then you really didn’t run a marathon.
  • Getting to the finish line and completing the race are two different things.
  • While it’s great to get to the end, how we got there is more important than getting there.
  • And why are we always so focused on getting to the end?
  • When we get to the end, that means the journey is over.
  • It’s the journey, it’s doing the work, it’s the process that’s important.
  • If we’re making only tentative efforts, then we never achieve that mastery which allows to excel at something.
  • Whether we’re building a business, composing music, or writing a book, or training for a marathon, we should dedicate ourselves to our work.
  • And we you achieve that mastery, you’ll be in place where you can create something that endures, something that’s worthy of your potential.

Photo by Andreas Fidler on Unsplash

Awareness Coffee Break stoicism

136 – The Scent of a Good Man

The Scent of a Good Man


“The honest and good man ought to be exactly like a man who smells strong, so that the bystander, as soon as he comes near him, must smell him whether he chooses or not.”

― Marcus Aurelius

Show Notes:

  • This quote cracked me up.
  • And even though Marcus Aurelius was the Emperor of Rome, I like that fact that he had a sense of humor.
  • His example is a potent reminder that we shouldn’t have to tell people how good we are, they should just notice.
  • Because if someone has to tell people how good a person they are, then they probably aren’t.
  • It’s like when someone says, “Trust me.” The fact that they had to say that now makes me wonder if there is something that I shouldn’t trust about them.
  • It should simply be part of our essence.
  • And while he was being humorous here, we as humans use our senses all the time when we meet other people.
  • Often when we meet someone, we get a certain feeling or “vibe” from someone.
  • We call it a gut feeling or instinct, and while it’s not always right, more times than not, we’re on the scent, and I’ve found that it’s a pretty indicator of the character of a person.
  • And when others meet you, what is their impression of you?
  • Do you reek with integrity?
  • Does your character stink with goodness?
  • Let the scent of your character make a lasting impression.

Photo by Kyle Johnson on Unsplash

Anger Awareness Coffee Break stoicism

135 – No Easy Thing

No Easy Thing


“You must know that it is no easy thing for a principle to become a man’s own, unless each day he maintain it and hear it maintained, as well as work it out in life.”

– Epictetus

Show Notes:

  • How often do we hear something, think that we understand it, but yet it still takes us quite a while to make it a part of our daily life?
  • Change is not easy.
  • Studies show that it takes 3-6 weeks for a habit to become ingrained, depending on the complexity of the habit.
  • It also depends on if you are trying create a new habit or replace an existing habit.
  • And that’s just for a single habit done daily.
  • How much information do you get in your life that you want to implement?
  • How many things are there that distract you from your habit?
  • If we want something to become a habit, I’ve found that it’s best to focus on one thing.
  • Work on it until you don’t have to think about it.
  • Then move on the next thing, and repeat.
  • If you want to exercise, do it every day, even if you don’t do it well.
  • If you want to be less angry, first pay attention to your mood.
  • Just getting it done each day is more important than the quality.
  • Creating this podcast for me was first about getting it done each day.
  • Then, once the routine was created, I was able to focus on the quality.
  • Is there a principle or a habit that you want to improve in in your life?
  • What can you do today to move you little closer to creating that habit?
  • Focus on the hardest part – creating the habit.
  • Worry about the quality later.
  • Soon you’ll have a shiny new habit.
  • And then you can start on the next one.

Photo by Scott Gruber on Unsplash

Awareness Coffee Break stoicism Tranquility

134 – A Wise Man

A Wise Man


“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has. ”

― Epictetus

Show Notes:

  • If you were to sit down and write a list of all the things that you want in your life, what would be on that list?
  • Maybe a new house, a new car, new clothes?
  • Would the things that you already have be on the list of things you want?
  • One of the core tenets of Stoicism being grateful for the things that we already have.
  • Because if you can want what you already have, you’ve already found a way to bump up your happiness.
  • One of the facets of modern day marketing is that if there is not a natural market for what you are selling, then they work to create demand for products.
  • Marketing works hard to make you feel like you are missing out, then offer you the solution to fix whatever ails you.
  • That if we only we had the newest, shiniest, new thing, then we could feel happy.
  • And it’s not to say that all marketing is bad. Marketing also lets us know about things that we may be truly interested in.
  • And it’s not always easy when there are messages email, ads, and tv that try to persuade us that we are missing out and that the key to fulfillment is just a credit card transaction away.
  • And then when you throw social media on top of our lives, we start to compare our lives to other people’s highlight reel.
  • And soon we can find ourselves perpetually unhappy with wanting things that we don’t need.
  • I know that I’ve fallen for this.
  • At times in my life when I’ve gone shopping because I’m unhappy or bored.
  • The things that I’m grateful for?
  • My partner and the great relationship that we have.
  • My kids and the good people that they are, and the amazing people they’re becoming.
  • And that we’re all pretty healthy.
  • For my awesome friends that make up my tribe.
  • That I have a comfortable home and a good job to take care of those that I love.
  • Taking those moments to appreciate what you already have, and to think to yourself about how fortunate you are, is a cheap way to brighten your day.



Photo by Hanny Naibaho on Unsplash

Awareness Challenges Coffee Break Control stoicism

133 – A Momentary Loss of Attention

A Momentary Loss of Attention


“Very little is needed for everything to be upset and ruined, only a slight lapse in reason. it’s much easier for a mariner to wreck his ship than it is for him to keep it sailing safely; all he has to do is head a little more upwind and disaster is instantaneous. In fact, he does not have to do anything: a momentary loss of attention will produce the same result. It’s much the same in our case. If you doze off, all your progress up to that point will be negated. To keep a sharp eye on your impressions, and never fall asleep. It is no small thing that is being watched over, it equates”

— Epictetus

Show Notes:

  • As we work to become better humans, we need to remember that it takes constant attention.

  • We need to make sure that we are finding ways to apply these principles consistently in our lives.

  • And it’s not easy. Our natural inclination is to be a bit lazy.

  • We don’t always want to put into practice what we’ve learned because it takes consistent effort.

  • I’ve talked about dealing with anger in my life, and reaching a point where I can deal with things more rationally more consistently.

  • So when I read this quote it really felt applicable.

  • There would be times when I’d go for a decent period of not letting my anger get the best of me, then I’d get a little tired or grumpy or frustrated, and fall right back into the same old behavior.

  • I don’t expect to be perfect, but it felt like I was undoing all the progress I had made.

  • Working on the things that will help us become better people is something that needs our attention all the time.

  • Consistent application of principles, ingrains them into our character

  • Just because we because we’ve done well with integrating good practices in principles isn’t our lives doesn’t mean that we can simply rest on our laurels.

  • I think it’s also a bit like fitness. We don’t just build up some muscle and then we never have to work on it again.

  • Consistency and attention helps strengthen our character, and keeps us sailing smoothly.

  • Even a good captain can sail his ship all the way to shore, only to end up on the rocks from careless inattention.

    Photo by Nathan Pirkle on Unsplash

Awareness Coffee Break Opinion stoicism

129 – Opinions and Perspective
Opinions and Pespective


“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”

― Marcus Aurelius

Show Notes:

– So many things in our lives that we experience and accept to be “true” is simply a matter of perception.
– Often we make the mistake of thinking that just because we see or hear something that because we experienced it, it must be what reality is.
– That the way the we experience the world is the way the world really is.
– But the Stoics remind us that everything in our experience is simply our perception of it, and that our perceptions are quite often wrong.
– And that we should be prepared to let go of anything we hold as “facts” or “truth” because at any moment we could get new information and be completely wrong.
– We see this with optical illusions. We see imaginary things in the shadows.
– We see this in mistakes by eyewitness testimonies that are completely contradicted by video footage of the same event.
– Everything that we experience is just data signals coming in and our brains are doing it’s best to interpret what those signals mean.
– Is that a saber tooth tiger or just strange looking bush?
– Is that a bear or gnarled tree?
– It looks to what it learned from the past and tries to compare it and match it to what it’s seen or heard before.
– The other day my partner sent me a link to an video which played a voice speaking a word.
– The strange thing is that some in some people heard the word “laurel” and others heard the word “yanny”.
– In some cases, people could heard both words as if they were superimposed over each other.
– If you haven’t heard this, I’m going to play it for you now.
– I only heard laurel. My partner heard yanny. And as we sat together and listened it was so strange that we were listening to the same thing yet heard completely different words.
– The NYT website has a special player so you can adjust the frequencies to hear both, so I’ll adjust it to move between the two.
– I’ll also put the link in the show notes, so that you can find it later.
– But the point is, that most of our reality is simply subjective. We get the signal and try to make is mean something, and those things that we think are solid facts, are simply an opinion. And truth is very dependent on our perspective.
– Now this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t believe anything. The point of Stoic rationality, and the basis for the scientific method is one that states, “This is the best opinion, based upon the information that I have. I could be proved wrong at any moment, so I should be willing to be open to changing my mind.”
– Or the most succinct way I’ve heard this put is, “Strong opinions, loosely held”.

Link to the NYT player:

Photo by Mathilda Khoo on Unsplash

Awareness Coffee Break Opinion

127 – Laugh in The Face Of Evil

Laugh In The Face OF Evil


“If evil be said of thee, and if it be true, correct thyself; if it be a lie, laugh at it.”

― Epictetus

Show Notes:

  • When I read this quote the first thing that came to mind was “I laugh in the face of evil!” 🙂
  • How often do we get upset at what others say about us?
  • How often do we let what others say about define who we are?
  • Why get upset about their opinion, esp if it’s a lie?
  • Remember, as Stoics we need to open to correction, because what we believe and how we see the world could be totally wrong.
  • We are going to make mistakes.
  • We need to act with integrity and decide if they said has merit.
  • So if someone points out a flaw, we should be thankful because we now know what to correct.
  • And if what is said about you is patently false, rather than let it upset, you should simply laugh in the face of evil.
  • On the surface this quote is telling us that we shouldn’t let what others say about us bother us, because it’s just their opinion, their way of seeing the world.
  • But if we dig a little deeper, what this quote is also telling us is that we need to deal with reality as it it, and not what we want it to be.
  • The reality is we will make mistakes. We’re not perfect. And there will be times when we fail to uphold our standards.
  • Often we don’t see the crappy things that we do, because sometimes because we don’t want to see them. Our ego gets in the way.
  • If we act with integrity should be willing to own our actions, and the outcome of our actions.
  • Don’t own others reactions. Everyone is responsible for their own emotions and reactions.
  • Be grateful for your enemies because they are often the only ones that tell you the truth.
  • And if they lie, laugh in the face of evil.


Awareness Challenges Coffee Break

125 – Little By Little

Little By Little

“Well-being is attained little by little, and nevertheless is no little thing itself.”

― Zeno of Citium

Show Notes:

• Zeno of Citium was the original founder of the Stoic school of philosophy.

• Not much of his writing survived, which is why he is not quoted very often when it comes to Stoic philosophy.

• But I really like this quote as it talks about the importances of small habits to help us attain our well being and inner peace.

• Working on things daily like recognizing what we can and can’t control, recognizing how our opinions on things shapes our view of whether we consider something good or bad, and so many other basic principles that we can practice daily.

• This can be applied to our lives in so many areas.

• We need to be careful of in life is to focus too much on the grand gestures, and not enough on the little things.

• While I think it’s in some way easier to notice the bigger gestures, to me it seems that that the smaller things are the ones, that in the long run have a bigger impact.

• While the big events or projects are the ones that stick out, it’s the small habits that we have that help us achieve those bigger goals.

• Getting up each morning to go for a run will have bigger impact on your life than the marathon you run.

• It’s the getting up each morning that makes it possible for you to actually run the marathon.

• In our relationships, it’s often the small things that we do for each other that mean more more than flowers or chocolates.

• One of the fondest things I remember about my father is him getting up early each morning and making us breakfast before I headed off to high school.

• Getting up each morning and writing in my journal, writing this podcast, recording this podcast are all daily habits that have transformed my life.

• Focusing on a small principle, even for a few minutes a day sets the tone for the day.

• And the more that I write my ideas down for a podcast, the easier it becomes to take an idea and run with it.

• And recording, while it still takes some time, has gotten so much easier, and smoother.

• I’m sure that you’ve noticed how much smoother thing have gotten over the course of this podcast.

• I can see for myself I’ve gotten better about expressing these ideas, and more relaxed and more comfortable in front of the mic then I ever was in the past.

• All of this has sprung from a daily habit of just writing in my Stoic Journal.

• Rome wasn’t built in a day, but little by little. A good life is built the same way – little by little.

Photo by Heidi Sandstrom. on Unsplash

Awareness Circumstances Coffee Break Control

123 – A Different Person

A Different Person

“If you really want to escape the things that harass you, what you’re needing is not to be in a different place but to be a different person.”

― Seneca

Show Notes:

• How often do we wish the world would change for us?

• How often do we think that we can run from our troubles?

• Maybe we work at a place where we feel like if our coworkers or our boss would just get their shit together then we’d be happy with our jobs.

• Maybe we’re in a relationship where we feel like if the other person would just change the things that we want them to, we’d finally be happy.

• Maybe we hate the town we’re living in and if only we could live somewhere else, we’d be happy.

• Maybe we think that if we had a better house, a better car, a better partner, better kids, then we’d be happy.

• There are so many things that we could point our finger at and say that needs to change, then I’d be happy.

• But the thing is, all of these things are outside of yourself. Most of these things are things that you have very little control over.

• And what Seneca means by this is that we are in control of our happiness. We can decide at any time to take control over the things that we can control, and be happy.

• Wishing the world to change for us in order for us to be happy just isn’t going to happen.

• Making our happiness dependent upon things that we can’t control is surefire way to be unhappy.

• And all these external things that come our way are things that are outside of our control.

• If you can learn to be happy in the lowest of circumstances, then you can be happy anywhere.

Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash

Awareness Coffee Break

122 – Contagious Thoughts

Contagious Thoughts

“Other people’s views and troubles can be contagious. Don’t sabotage yourself by unwittingly adopting negative, unproductive attitudes through your associations with others.”

― Epictetus

Show Notes:

– It’s important to be careful about the ideas we entertain.
– Because the ideas we hold determine who we are
– How we show up in the world
– How we treat others
– Let’s take money for example.
– If you hang around people that think that money is the measure of a person, you will treat people differently than someone that doesn’t.
– If think that that people who are poor are lazy and deserve what they get, then you’re more likely to treat them poorly.
– If we think that rich people are more deserving because they are rich, then we may treat them better simply because we assume they have more value.
– If you spend any amount of time watching any political news media, you’d think that the end of civilization was happening because of one side or the other.
– I had a good friend in college that used to listen to right wing talk radio fairly often. I’d known him since high school and he was generally a pretty fair minded person.
– But after years of listening to so much fear monger it and hateful ideas about the poor, other races, women’s rights, gay and lesbians, and the worst offenders: Democrats. And I really couldn’t understand why he had so much anger towards these groups that really had no impact on his life in any direct way.
– And we need to be careful about the attitudes and ideas of those around us.
– The more we are around ideas enough, the more we begin to see them as normal.
– While we all like to think that we are great critical thinkers, without taking extra care to truly examine the ideas that others present to you, it’s very easy to just fall in with the crowd and adopt a way of thinking that may not be one of our own choosing.
– I grew up in a culture that was very much about conforming to a specific dogma. It seemed pretty normal at the time, and it wasn’t until years later after moving out of my hometown that I began to see how so many of my unconscious attitudes had been formed by that culture.
– It’s taken a long time to become aware of and work on a lot of my own biases.
– And there are still times where I find that they way I act in a situation has been strongly influenced by these unconscious ideas that I was brought up with.
– So be aware of the people and ideas that you give your time to. Do they enlighten and help you forward as a person, or do they drag you down?
– Also, just because everyone around you may think or believe something doesn’t necessarily make it true.
– Just as an athlete is careful about what they put into their mouths in order to strengthen their bodies, we need to careful about the thoughts we put in our heads to strengthen our minds.

Photo by Official on Unsplash

Anger Awareness Coffee Break Control

121 – Anger If Not Restrained…

Anger if Not Restrained…

“Anger, if not restrained, is frequently more hurtful to us than the injury that provokes it.”

― Seneca

Show Notes

• Today’s topic is one that is a bit personal to me. It’s something that I struggle with at times.

• I’ll get upset about something, and because I let anger get the best of me, I make the situation far worse than the event that I got angry about in the first place.

• And getting angry also causes me to ruin my inner peace. We make myself unhappy by not dealing with anger in a constructive way. I give ourselves a bad day.

• And it’s because sometimes anger feels good. That righteous indignation when we feel that someone has done us wrong and that we have the right to put them in their place.

• Anger is something that each one of us have to deal with.

• We don’t need to turn off anger. Repressing what we feel is not a good idea either.

• But dealing with it in a healthy way is something that we can all learn.

• We can feel the feelings, acknowledge them, then decide what to do about them.

• We can ask whether we were actually harmed. Remember, we are only harmed if we believe we have been harmed.

• We can ask ourselves if our response will do more harm than good.

• We can ask ourselves if this will be important in the future, or will it be some forgotten trifle.

• By giving into anger is like kicking the hornet’s nests because it was in our way, when we could have just as easily gone around

• I know that we’ve discussed anger fairly often on this podcast, but being able to apply principles in your lives is a daily practice. A daily exercise.

• Just as we wouldn’t just go to the gym once and workout and declare that we are in shape and never go back again, working on applying these principles is something that we need to work on everyday. It’s a way to get in our mental exercise.

• And like an athlete, we’re going to have days where we run the perfect race and everything works in our favor. We also going to have a lot of days where we’re off and we fall flat on our faces.

• And just like an athlete we need to gauge our fitness level for the day, and put in our best effort, regardless of how meager it might be.


Photo by Gabriel Matula on Unsplash

Anger Awareness Coffee Break Control

119 – Who is Your Master?

Who is Your Master?

“Any person capable of angering you becomes your master;

he can anger you only when you permit yourself to be disturbed by him.”

― Epictetus

Show Notes:

• Stoics believed strongly that we are all in control of our own emotions

• One of the strongest emotions we have to deal with is anger

• From an evolutionary standpoint it seems to makes sense. We feel threatened and we respond in a way that we think will deal with the threat.

• But the thing is, fear is usually the response to a physical threat. Anger is usually response from a threat to our ego. Anger is usually what we use to try and control something that we can’t.

• When someone speaks poorly of us, or does or says something we don’t like, we’re trying to control them through anger.

• If someone is easily offended and flies off the handle at even the smallest thing, they are are trying to control others.

• But when we get angry we’re failing to control the one thing we truly can control – ourselves. We’re giving control of our emotions to someone else.

• Have you ever seen a kid do things just to get a rise out of someone? Maybe their siblings or their parents? It’s their way of trying to see if they can control the other person.

• This is why politicians like to get people angry about something. Why they choose a polarizing side on an issue. It’s about control.

• Get people angry about something and you have a lot more control over them.

• People don’t go to war because they’re happy and want to be kind to others.

• They go to war because they’re angry about something. And it may have started of being afraid of something, but was channeled into anger.

• Remember, the only thing that you can control is yourself, so it’s up to you to decide – are you the master of yourself, or are you going to give that power to anyone else that upsets you?

Photo by Peter Forster on Unsplash

Awareness Coffee Break Opinion

117 – Do Good of Your Own Accord

Do Good of Your Own Accord


“Even as the Sun does not wait for prayers and incantations to rise, but shines forth and is welcomed by all: so should you not wait for clapping of hands and shouts and praise to do your duty; nay, do good of your own accord, and you will be loved like the Sun.”

― Epictetus


One of the ideas that is common in a lot of religions is the idea of doing good works without the fanfare of other people. That we should do things because they are the right things to do, not because everyone will see what we are doing. And here Epictetus uses some great imagery to explain that idea. Just as the sun doesn’t wait for fanfare to shine, we shouldn’t wait to do things just to be seen by others.

And what is wrong with that? What is wrong with doing things to be seen by others? We’re still doing good deeds aren’t we? And we get the added benefit of praise from others, so that’s good, right? When we do things just to be seen by others, we are worrying about the opinions of others. If we only do things when we can get praise, then there’s a lot of good things that we could do that will go undone because we were waiting to do it when others could praise us.

We are giving our control to other people. We are in a sense letting the opinions of others dictate what we will do. When we act this way, we’re often thinking, “What’s in it for me?” What if everyone worked this way? What if everyone asked, “What’s in it for me?”

What if you were injured and someone came along who could help you, but they decided not to because no one was around to see their good deed? They decided that it would not benefit them so they leave you to fend for yourself. This is what Jesus talked about the story of the good Samaritan.

For those that don’t know the story, a man is traveling to another town, and is robbed, beaten, and left for dead. A priest and a Levite, who was religious man who worked in the temple, both pass by and leave the man. A Samaritan comes along and helps the man and takes him to an inn and pays for him to receive help with no expectation of being repaid or praised. At that time Jews and Samaritans despised each other, so in doing so, he showed that their “enemy” helped the man because it was the right things to do, not because of any outward praise or direct benefit to himself.

The things is, our world is built upon us being cooperative and doing lots of little and big kindnesses throughout the day. And personally, I think that the one of the main purpose of lives, and what makes our lives richer is to lessen the suffering of others. And you know what? It feels good when I help others and do it because it’s something I want to do, not because I think I’ll get something out of it.

Just as the sun shines on us without waiting for praise, we should make doing good for its own sake be part of our nature.

Photo by Ronaldo Santos on Unsplash

Awareness Coffee Break Opinion

115 – No Opinion

No Opinion


“You always own the option of having no opinion. There is never any need to get worked up or to trouble your soul about things you can’t control. These things are not asking to be judged by you. Leave them alone.”

― Marcus Aurelius

Have you ever considered the possibility that you don’t need to have an opinion about something? That you don’t need to pass judgment on everything?

Before you spend your time worrying about something, what if you took the time to decide if it was worth having an opinion about? There are so many things in this world that have no impact on us whatsoever. So why waste your time on these things? How much energy is wasted on who a celebrity is dating or not dating? Or the fact that they were seen in some untrendy store wearing sweatpants and a baseball cap?

Have you ever been around someone that had to give their opinion on everything? As if they they were imparting some great wisdom by giving you their uninformed opinion on something that didn’t even matter? In most cases, when we think that everyone else is entitled to our opinion, we tend to show how uninformed we really are.
Or if it’s something small and trivial, that we’re just a petty gossip.

I often hear people talk like this about political matters as if their opinion on what some pundit had to say about someone else, actually mattered. Would actually have an impact. If these things don’t have any effect, why waste time and energy on them?

The next time you find yourself talking about the stupid thing that so celebrity or some politician said or did, ask yourself, “Do I really need to have an opinion on this?” And save that precious time doing something that matters.

Awareness Coffee Break

113 – Plenty To Laugh At

Plenty To Laugh At


“He who laughs at himself never runs out of things to laugh at.”

― Epictetus


One of the most important things in life is that we don’t take ourselves too seriously. Remember, Stoics keep in the forefront of their minds the knowledge that one day they too will die, and when you look at life through that lens, you learn to give things their appropriate weight. Is that thing that you are stressing about going to be of importance in 10 years? 100 years? 1000? 10,000?

We talk a lot about how you can’t control the opinions of others and what they may think about you. And I think being able to laugh at yourself is a place that can free you from a lot of stress in your life.

About 10 years ago, I became the butt of a Weird Al Yankovic joke and created a trending topic on Twitter for a day. In response to an amusing video he posted on Twitter about streets sign using poor grammar. I retweeted it and misspelled the word grammar. Weird Al responded with the the correct spelling, and boom, there I was at the receiving end of embarrassing retweet after retweet.

While the incident itself was harmless, I found myself really upset by it. I consider myself to be intelligent and literate, so being at the receiving end of other people’s laughter about my perceived lack of intelligence really hurt my ego. When I look back on it now, it seems pretty silly, and I can laugh about now. But at the time it really stung.

And why is that? Why would the opinion of so many people, none of whom I actually know, matter so much?  When I think about it now and using my logic, it was simply words on a digital page. That’s it. But because I used to be so worried about the opinion of others, I could feel my cheeks burn with embarrassment even there was no one around to see me. I even suspended my account for a bit.

But you know what? The next day it was forgotten and the twitterverse had moved on to something else. All the stress was for nothing.

The more you learn to lighten up and are able to laugh at yourself, the more you can enjoy your life, and let go of things when they don’t work out as planned. Can you laugh at yourself?Can you let go of your ego enough to realize that you can laugh at yourself and the silly things you hold on to? If others laugh at you can you recognize that it impacts you as much as you let it? That even if they do laugh at you that it doesn’t change who you are?

To me, being able to laugh at yourself is a way of being able to forgive yourself for the silly mistakes that we make.Learning how to lighten up and find the silliness and joy in life can make such a huge change in your life. And if you can bring a little lightness to someone else’s life by some silly foible, consider it a good day and laugh along with.


Photo by Eugene Taylor on Unsplash

Anger Awareness Challenges Coffee Break

112 – Anger Always Outlasts Hurt

Anger Always Outlasts Hurt


“How much better to heal than seek revenge from injury. Vengeance wastes a lot of time and exposes you to many more injuries than the first that sparked it. Anger always outlasts hurt. Best to take the opposite course. Would anyone think it normal to return a kick to a mule or a bite to a dog?”

— Seneca


I was talking with a friend the other day about how to deal with anger. He asked me specifically about how to deal with anger in life, so I felt it only appropriate to talk about anger today.

Anger is something that I’ve certainly struggled with. Growing up with a terrible example of how to deal with anger, I would either avoid it, or I would be consumed by it. Finding a way to deal with it constructively has taken years of work, and I still struggle with it.

Sometimes it feels like we live in a world that often seems to be fueled by anger. You turn on the news and it seems that story after story is about some of the worst instances of humanity. Almost any political talk show seems to trying it’s best to whip us up into fearing and hating the other side. So much so, that it seems that we can’t have an actual discussion with those that disagree with us politically. When we live in a society that thinks it’s okay to take down those that do you wrong or disagree with you, it’s hard to stop and take those steps to be kind to those that you feel have injured you.

But the idea of not returning hate with hate is not a new new one.

Jesus taught, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

In Buddhist teachings, anger is often compared to an “out of control forest fire” and a “rampaging elephant.” Because reactive uncontrolled anger is so destructive so quickly.

Confucius said, “Holding onto anger is like holding onto a burning ember that you want to throw at someone. You’re the one that gets burned.”

And the Stoics are no different. Seneca is warns us that vengeance wastes a lot of time. It also wastes a lot of energy. When you seek revenge, you injure yourself with your own anger. You often say or do things that make the situation far worse than it was before.

Why do we give into the angry path? Because anger is easy. Because there’s a part of anger that feels good at the time. The desire to strike back at those that you feel have wronged you is powerful.

What if all that effort was put into understanding why the other person tried to injure you? What if you took that same time and energy and tried to heal the situation? What if all that effort was put into mobilizing people for good? For getting people to talk to each other and work on solutions?

How do we deal with anger? How do we train ourselves to not give into our impulses?

The first step, which is often the hardest, is to truly grasp the concept that you are 100% responsible for your emotions. No one else is. Nothing else is to blame. Regardless of the circumstances or the events that happen, you decide to if you want to respond in anger. And just as you have conditioned yourself to respond with anger, you can condition yourself to respond with calmness and rationality.

The next step is being aware of our anger. Do you notice when you are in throws of anger, rather than only really seeing it after you cool down?

Next, try to step back from it. Can you look at it from a detached perspective? Can you look at as if you were just someone else in the room observing it? When you are more able to catch yourself in the middle of it, and can take a step back, resist the urge to lash out. Think about if what you want to say will do harm or help.

Stick to it. When you are in the heat of the moment and you do get some control, the other person may still be arguing or pushing back even though you are making honest efforts to defuse the situation. Don’t revert back to lashing out, no matter how much you want to. Think before you speak. If you have to leave the situation, then do so. Step away and delete that angry Facebook post.

Once you’ve worked to cool yourself down, understand that healing the situation is about the other person, not about make yourself feel better. It’s about meeting the needs of the person that you have harmed. It will take time, and humble attitude to work things out.

Changing a habit of reactive anger is not easy. It may be one of the hardest things you will ever have to overcome. But the damage that is caused by not learning to control your emotions can take a long time to heal. The more you can keep a reign on yourself, the less you have to repair. The more inner tranquility you cultivate, the more you can apply your energy to building things up rather than tearing them down.

Are you struggling with something in your life? Do you have questions about Stoic philosophy? I would really like to hear from you. If you go to the front page and scroll to the bottom of the page, you can send me a message. I’ll do my best to address your question on the show. I’ve found that Stoic ideas and principles are some of the most practical teachings there are, and can be applied in any situation in your life.


Photo by Jonathan Harrison on Unsplash

Awareness Coffee Break

111 – One Tongue, Two Ears

One Tongue, Two Ears

“Nature hath given men one tongue but two ears, that we may hear from others twice as much as we speak.”

— Epictetus


Epictetus was known for his clever wit and pithy sayings, and here he’s giving us some very good advice of how we should handle ourselves in any social situation. We’ve all been around people that dominate conversations, and maybe we’ve been that person.  

As I’ve mentioned before on this podcast, I used to talk over people in conversations all the time. While mine was born out of insecurity and wanting people to like me, learning how to listen to others brings many benefits.

Let me put it this way, if you’re talking all the time how are you going to learn anything?

As Stoics we should strive to be consummate learners. We should view ourselves always as students of life, and we can always learn something from everyone. And because we also strive to be in control of ourselves, by taking our time, listening and observing, we can be sure that what we have to say is well thought out, rather than simply spitting out the first thing that comes to mind. And I know that some us are probably more wired to be a bit talkative. And if that’s who you are, that’s perfectly okay. But as someone that is also wired that way, learning how to listen better pays off amazing dividends and even making small steps in that direction is well worth the effort.

The thing is, people also feel more connected to you when they feel like you’ve heard and understood them. They notice when you’re more focused on what you want to say next than actually paying attention to them. Also, people like to talk about themselves, and if you are open to listening you’d be surprised what people will share with you, and the more you know about a person, the more connected you feel with them. Who knows, maybe you share some common interests that you would have never know about if you’d been too busy talking.

If we’re too busy trying to show off, we’re not paying attention to what’s going around us. The people that I’ve seen that seem pretty wise to me, usually take the time to assess a situation, to observe and to see what they notice. They’re not in rush to show how much they know, but they take their time and are curious to see if their hunches about their observations play out. Because they put in the effort to read situations better, it’s like they have a sixth sense about people which comes in very useful in all kinds of ways.

Remember, taking time to be observant, for some of us, is not always easy. It takes some humility to recognize that just because we think something doesn’t mean it has to said out loud. By taking time to truly listen to others and focus on what they have to share, we can be more connected with others, practice being more observant in our lives in general, and we might even learn something new.


Awareness Coffee Break Control

108 – Opinion Of The Self

Opinion Of The Self

“I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinion of himself than on the opinion of others.”

— Marcus Aurelius

Photo by Sergiu Vălenaș on Unsplash

Awareness Coffee Break

102 – As You See Yourself

As You See Yourself

“It is unrealistic to expect people to see you as you see yourself.”

― Epictetus

Photo by Joanna Nix on Unsplash